Monday, October 13, 2008

Feed Your Head in Boston - Pinback

After flying across country to Boston, I dropped off my luggage and headed directly to the Paradise Club on Sunday (October 5, 2008). The Paradise has probably been around for over 30 years, as I remember it as a new club when I left Boston in 1978 and headed to L.A.

I was going to see a band that I will finally go way out on a limb to proclaim as my favorite band. I realize the danger of such an admission as you will be labelled as someone who only likes one sound or is not open to anything else, but I think I've displayed sufficient range in my rock music tastes to offset that accusation.

Pinback came to me in a rather left-field kind of way. It's September, 2005 and I've discovered Arcade Fire, Death Cab For Cutie, The Caesars and I'm hunting for any indie-rock music videos I can find on TV. An almost futile search, but I stumble across the music video for "Closer" by Matt Pond PA and I loved their sound. Desperately looking for any CD by that band, I picked up the CD Music From the O.C. volume 4 because it had one cut by them. It was a cover of Oasis' "Supernova" which they did a fantastic job with (better than the original - I'm not an Oasis fan).

The point of that is: when I got to the cut "Fortress" by Pinback, all other bands receded to the background. I must have played the cut 8 times in a row, to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. Here was a perfection of harmony, balance and sound. A sound that went right to my sweet spot and I realized I was hearing what, to my ear, was perfect music. The plucked bass, the mellifluous guitar, the hypnotically beautiful piano and the astonishing precision of the vocals, seemed as good as I'd ever heard.

Their music took me to a place I'd never been before, a place of order and balance. It taught me something about myself. How much I'm attracted to orderly, almost mathematically precise art. It was why I was always passionate about Bach.

The next day I went to, the now defunct, Aron Records in Hollywood and picked up Summer in Abaddon, which turned out to be one of the best albums I'd ever heard. Over the next two weeks I purchased every CD they'd yet released and became obsessed with seeing them live.

Going through some difficult times, I found their music an amazing comfort. It was calming and restful as well as, simultaneously, stimulating and inspiring. Through their music I could see myself changing. Music was becoming more and more important to me and I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go with it. That was when I decided to begin attending live concerts.

On October 30, 2005, Pinback played the Avalon in Hollywood and I saw them for the first time. It was everything I wanted it to be. So here we are two and a half years later and I'm seeing them for the seventh time, and in my former hometown.

The Paradise is a nice club holding about 250 people and this was by far the most enthusiastic crowd I've yet seen for a Pinback concert. Boston loves Pinback. And they repayed these fans with one of the best sets I've seen from them. Playing with a new keyboardist, substituting for their regular player who is, sadly, battling cancer (our thoughts are with him), they played in a style that seemed a little stripped down really emphasizing the musical and vocal collaboration of Rob Crow and Zach Smith.

Supported by an additional guitarist and a drummer, they sounded as good as I've ever heard live. Rob was in great form, responding to the super-enthusiastic audience, he was chatty, amiable and having a lot of fun. Zack's vocal performance was so strong I was kind of blown away. I've never heard him sound so clear and forceful. Maybe it was the sound mix, but I think he was really "on" tonight and the mix of the two singers was just right. Naturally, his bass playing was some of the best to be seen on this planet.

They played "Touch", "Bouquet", "Non-photo Blue", "Microtonic Wave" and other career highlights including "Penelope", "How We Breathe", "Offcell", "Loro", "Fortress" and "From Nothing To Nowhere". At one point Rob's keyboard went out so he couldn't do his special sound effects, so he concentrated on guitar and voice, but the songs still sounded complete.

Encore's included "Sender" and "Manchuria" in front of a crowd that made me proud of Boston. It was a great way to spend my first night in town. Afterwards I hung around a little and spoke with Zack, who was nice enough to say he recognized me. Perhaps from the Amoeba In-store when he signed my Autumn of the Seraphs CD. I had to tell him how impressed I was with his vocals and the overall performance. It's just an honor to shake his hand.



David said...

i saw pinback last week in cleveland. i have to agree with you that zach's voice was surprisingly strong, especially compared to what you hear on the records. they are just an incredible group of musicians. great show. i assume they closed your set with "june" as they did ours. what a treat that was.

Brad said...

Thanks,David for reminding me about "June". Yes they closed with that song and it sounded just great, aided by Zack's singing, especially at the end. I love the ending of that song and I think "Some Voices" and "Offcell" are two of my favorite Pinback releases. I can't wait to see them in L.A. on Monday.